7/1/2005 Insider - Top 20 free agents

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Updated: July 1, 2005, 12:39 AM ET
Redd and Allen head a deep free-agent class




By Chad Ford


Now that the draft is behind us, NBA teams quickly switched gears Wednesday and began preparations for the 2005 free-agent frenzy.

Who will have the cap space to make a difference in this summer's free-agent market?

Assuming there's a $49.5 million cap (based on the latest projections with the new collective-bargaining agreement), the Cleveland Cavaliers will have roughly $28 million in cap room. The Atlanta Hawks and Seattle Sonics will have $25 million, the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets roughly $20 million. The Los Angeles Clippers will have about $16 million. The Chicago Bulls will have about $15 million. The Milwaukee Bucks have cleared about $12 million.

Will they really want or be able to use it? The Sonics, Bucks and Bulls likely will spend all of their room re-signing their own free agents. The Cavs will use roughly $10 million to $12 million of theirs in an attempt to re-up Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And the Bobcats likely will save much of their cap space for summer 2007.

That leaves the Hawks, Cavs (roughly $16 million to $18 million, if they sign Ilgauskas), Hornets and Clippers as the big players in the free-agent market. Since only one of those teams, the Cavs, has shown it can compete for the playoffs (though the Clippers are getting close), the free-agent destinations for top veterans will be very limited.

This year's list of free agents isn't top-heavy, but it's deep. Ray Allen, Michael Redd, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker and Ilgauskas top the list of unrestricted veterans. Of that group, Allen, Walker and Abdur-Rahim are the most likely to bolt for new teams.

The restricted free-agent class looks much better, but remember, going after restricted free agents in the summer is always a dicey proposition. Only two top restricted free agents changed teams last summer. The Nuggets swiped Kenyon Martin from the New Jersey Nets (the Nets eventually agreed to a sign-and-trade) and the Phoenix Suns pried Quentin Richardson away from the Clippers.

Here's Insider's look at the free-agent class of 2005. The names on the board might leave fans (and GMs) breathless. Whether most of these guys actually will switch teams is another question.





Top 20 2005 Free Agents
Key: R = Restricted free agent | PO = Player Option | TO = Team Option

1. Ray Allen, SG, Sonics






Allen





The skinny: Of the top-tier guys on the list, Allen has the best shot at leaving. He tried to work out a big extension with the Sonics all season, to no avail. The two sides essentially bickered over whether the last year of a five-year deal would be guaranteed. Allen has threatened to bolt if the Sonics don't up their offer … but where would he go? Look for the Clippers to show up at his door step at midnight on Friday. The Clippers believe Allen could make them a serious playoff contender in the West. And head coach Mike Dunleavy has the OK of owner Donald Sterling to make a big offer. Cleveland is also a possibility. If the Cavs don't land Michael Redd, Allen would be an attractive option. Allen hasn't ruled out a return to Milwaukee, either, though that happens only if Redd bolts. Allen's agent says he also expects the Hawks to show interest, though it's tough to imagine Allen being willing to join such a bad team. The rest of the teams with money will look for someone younger. All this means that if the Clips or Cavs don't come through, Allen's options will be limited to either signing with Seattle for less money or working out a sign-and-trade with the Sonics. Under those last two scenarios, the Sonics get something back in return.

2. Michael Redd, SG, Bucks (PO)






Redd





The skinny: On July 1, 2005, Redd might be the hottest free agent on the market. He's making just $3 million in Milwaukee this year and tried to bolt the team two summers ago when he signed a three-year offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, he has become one of the league's best shooters and an All-Star. He'll command a huge raise, and the Bucks are prepared to pay it. There has been talk all season that Redd would leave the Bucks for the Cavs. However, since then, Redd has given strong indications to the Bucks that his first choice is to re-sign with them as long as they give him a big deal. Still, look for the Cavs, Clips and possibly the Hawks to make a big push this summer. The Cavs could have the best chance to land him. The opportunity to return to his home state and play with LeBron might trump the extra year and bigger raises the Bucks can offer.

3. Samuel Dalembert, PF/C, 76ers (R)






Dalembert





The skinny: Of all the talented big men from the class of 2001, Dalembert is the most coveted. His breakout performance in April 2004 (12.3 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 4.8 bpg) got teams drooling. In 2004-05, his performance was all over the board, from stunning to awful. However, most NBA scouts blame former head coach Jim O'Brien more than Dalembert for the center's inconsistent numbers. In the playoffs, Dalembert redeemed himself to an extent, averaging an NBA-high 12.8 rpg in the first round against the Pistons. Dalembert has the size, athleticism and work ethic to be a force somewhere down the road. Good centers don't come along too often. When the good ones are on the free-agent market, teams usually are willing to overpay to get them. The Sixers told everyone as the trade deadline came and went that Dalembert's untouchable and that they plan to re-sign him this summer … but at what price? Sixers GM Billy King is a big fan, and made it clear after firing O'Brien and hiring Mo Cheeks that re-signing Dalembert was a top priority. The Hawks are willing to throw near-max numbers at him. The Cavs and Sonics also are interested, as are teams willing to do a sign-and-trade, such as the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks. Dalembert is going to get paid somewhere … the question is whether it will be in Philly.

4. Tyson Chandler, PF/C, Bulls (R)






Chandler





The skinny: Chandler had another up-and-down season for the Bulls. He has stayed healthy, was terrific on the boards again and showed signs that he's an emerging shot blocker. But his offensive game has really stagnated. He still hasn't developed a low-post game, getting most of his shots off offensive rebounds and a nice little 10-foot jumper. However, he was very good in the playoffs, which surely will help his stock. Bulls GM John Paxson loves Chandler. He has a great work ethic both off and on the court that Paxson admires. But what will the GM pay him? Chandler's history with injuries and his limited offensive potential might keep Paxson from throwing the bank at him. Then again, with it looking more likely that Eddy Curry could leave, the Bulls don't want to lose both of these guys. Teams like Cleveland or Atlanta also are considering throwing a max-type deal Chandler's way. In the end, however, it probably would be fruitless. Paxson has said he'll match any deal for Chandler, and I believe it. He's too important to the Bulls' future, and he has the potential to turn into a Ben Wallace-type defensive force (except Chandler is five inches taller) as long as he remains healthy.

5. Larry Hughes, G, Wizards






Hughes





The skinny: Hughes picked a great time to have a career year. He averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals and was well on his way toward an All-Star berth before suffering a midseason injury. There's no question the Wizards want him back and will be willing to pay him. Hughes just turned 26 and seems to be in the prime of his career. The Wizards likely will have competition from the Bucks (if Redd doesn't re-sign), the Cavs and possibly the Clippers. But at the end of the day, the Wizards can offer the most money and seem inclined to do it.

6. Joe Johnson, G, Suns (R)




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Johnson





The skinny: People talk about Redd and Allen as the league's premier shooters, but what about Johnson? He ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage this season and seventh in 3-pointers made. Yes, he gets a lot of open shots considering that most defenses are preoccupied trying to contain Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash – but Johnson has proved repeatedly that he can take over a game when needed. The fact that he's versatile enough to play backup point doesn't hurt his stock, either. The Suns want him back and own his restricted rights. Suns GM Bryan Colangelo told Insider several weeks ago that the team is prepared to match any offer for him. The recent Quentin Richardson-for-Kurt Thomas swap was made, in part, to clear up some long-term cap room to facilitate the re-signing of Johnson. The Cavs also will strongly consider Johnson if Redd doesn't sign with them. He's also likely to get some love from the Bobcats and possibly the Clippers.

7. Eddy Curry, C, Bulls (R)






Curry





The skinny: Curry is one of this crop's biggest enigmas. He's a talented low-post scorer who still seems to be growing as a player. But questions about his work ethic have haunted him (how can a guy his size play so many minutes and grab so few rebounds?). The relationship between Curry and the Bulls has waxed and waned considerably the past three seasons. There were several points this year when it seemed like a lock that Curry would be back in a Bulls uniform next season. Right now, his return is far short of certain. Curry had a heart problem toward the end of the season that forced him to miss the playoffs. After months of testing, Curry has been cleared by doctors to begin playing again, but in the meantime, his value might have dropped considerably. The Bulls like Curry, but owner Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't sound ready to commit to a huge guaranteed deal for him. If Curry can persuade a team such as the Cavs (LeBron has been recruiting him), Hawks, Clippers or Sonics to roll the dice and offer him a big deal, will the Bulls match? GM Paxson says yes, but it might depend on how the collective-bargaining negotiations turn out. If Curry can get a mere four-year deal somewhere else, the Bulls might be willing to take the risk.

8. Stromile Swift, PF/C, Grizzlies






Swift





The skinny: Swift took the Grizzlies' one-year tender offer last summer so he'd be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Expect him to take advantage of it. The Grizzlies drafted Hakim Warrick, in part, because they know Swift is gone. He has never quite performed up to expectations in Memphis. Still, Swift has the athleticism, shot blocking and rebounding skills many teams covet. He might never be a great offensive player or a particularly smart player, but on an up-tempo team that likes to get out and run, he could be very, very good. Look for the Hawks, Hornets, Bucks and possibly the Cavs and Sonics to show interest.

9. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, PF, Blazers






Abdur-Rahim





The skinny: Abdur-Rahim is an enigma. Every year, he puts up great stats for whatever team he's on, but he has never played on a team with a winning record. Never. The chances of his returning to Portland are slim. He knows that Zach Randolph is the Blazers' future at the four and doesn't want to keep playing out of position on one of the NBA's most dysfunctional franchises. At 28, Abdur-Rahim still has plenty of juice left. But who's going to offer him the cash? Most of the teams with money are already set at his position or are looking for someone young. A number of veteran teams – including the Nets, Timberwolves and Heat – would love to get their hands on him, but all they can offer is a mid-level exception. The Blazers might be willing to do a sign-and-trade, but given how chaotic things in Portland are right now, who knows what the team will do?

10. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Cavs






Ilgauskas





The skinny: It's pretty rare when an All-Star-caliber center appears on the unrestricted market, but Ilgauskas has issues. He turned 30 in June and, despite having played relatively injury-free basketball the past few seasons, he has a history of foot injuries that could scare away any team doctor. However, his ability to score in the paint and block shots makes him a coveted commodity. The Cavs want to re-sign him, but for no more than a four-year deal that pays him roughly $44 million. If Ilgauskas pushes for more, the Cavs might wait him out this summer. Like Abdur-Rahim, the Lithuanian native doesn't have many potential suitors among the teams that have cap room, and the Cavs have no interest in a sign-and-trade, closing off that avenue. If Ilgauskas has to choose between taking $5 million in the mid-level exception and taking $10 million from the Cavs, what do you think he'll choose?

11. Bobby Simmons, G/F, Clippers






Simmons





The skinny: Simmons stands to be one of the more coveted free agents on the market because he is an unrestricted free agent, plays for the Clippers and shouldn't break a bank account to get signed. Simmons' production made a major leap this past season. In February, he averaged 20 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 57 percent from 3. He is versatile, a great rebounder for his size and one of the league's best free-throw shooters. He's a hardworking kid who just turned 25 in mid-June, so what isn't there to like about him? Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy told Insider several weeks ago that he wants him back badly, but the Clippers are likely to get some serious competition from the Bobcats, the Hornets and possibly the Cavs. If a team offers Simmons more than the mid-level exception, however, don't be so sure the Clippers will match. Dunleavy likes him, but he's not willing to break the bank to keep him.

12. Marko Jaric, PG, Clippers (R)






Jaric





The skinny: When Jaric has been healthy, he has looked solid. The pickings are slim at the point guard position, which should bode well for Jaric. A number of teams – including the Magic, Celtics, Bulls, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Wolves, Suns, Jazz and Raptors – are interested, but none of them has more than the mid-level to make something happen. The Cavs have more to offer and are interested, but might be unwilling to lock up their cap space for seven days while they wait for the Clippers to match. Los Angeles is inclined to keep him anyway, as long as the bidding doesn't get out of control for both Jaric and Simmons, and Jaric wants to return. Dunleavy told Jaric in his exit interview that he'd have to accept that Shaun Livingston would be the Clippers' full-time point guard and that Jaric would spend most of his time at the two. That's something Jaric has bristled at in the past, but he has warmed to the idea, partly because he loves L.A. and partly because the Clippers appear to be on the verge of the playoffs.

13. Kwame Brown, PF/C, Wizards (R)






Brown





The skinny: Despite all of Kwame's problems, teams are still interested. In fact, since the Wizards suspended him in the playoffs, the interest has gone up. Before, many GMs felt that Washington would match any offer for Brown. Not anymore. Brown, an athletic 7-footer who's still just 23, has value. A team such as Atlanta, desperate to turn around its fortunes, might just send a significant contract his way. Brown played high school ball in Atlanta and still has a fan base there. Given the loads of cash the Hawks have to work with, they might be able to afford him, Dalembert and a point guard such as Earl Watson.

14. Vladimir Radmanovic, F, Sonics (R)






Radmanovic





The skinny: Radmanovic was the leading contender to win the Sixth Man Award before breaking his leg and missing the last six weeks of the season. He was a critical component in the Sonics' unexpected run this year and has a lot of fans around the league. He'd like to get out of Seattle and move to a team willing to give him a starting role. Although there are a number of teams that would be interested, Radmanovic's problem is the competition at his position going into the summer. According to a number of teams Insider talked to, Redd, Allen, Hughes, Johnson and Simmons all rank higher on the boards of teams that have money to spend. If a number of other options fall through, teams such as Cleveland, Milwaukee and possibly Atlanta are interested. However, if those teams find help somewhere else, Radmanovic might be forced to take the mid-level exception. A number of teams would be interested in giving it to him, but at that point it's likely the Sonics would match. A sign-and-trade might be Radmanovic's best option if he wants out of town.



15. Antoine Walker, F, Celtics






Walker





The skinny: Walker's re-emergence in Boston was supposed to pay off for him this summer. However, after the Celtics tanked in the first round (and Walker was less than stellar), the 29-year-old seems to be right back where he was in Atlanta. Walker put up decent numbers all season, but many teams are writing them off as meaningless. His abysmal plus/minus numbers for the Hawks, among the worst in the league, haven't helped his cause. In Walker's defense, he was a spark for the Celtics, helping Paul Pierce be happy again and making GM Danny Ainge look like a genius for about a month. But the effect was short-lived. What happens this summer? No teams with cap room will show serious interest in Walker. The Celtics might be willing to re-sign him, but not for anything near the $14 million he made this season. Cut that number to less than half, and the Celtics might start talking. Walker might have no choice but to take it or take a bigger pay cut for another team's mid-level exception (the Knicks are said to be very interested) or work out a sign-and-trade with the Celtics.

16. Antonio Daniels, PG, Sonics (PO)



Daniels


The skinny: Daniels was a contender for the Sixth Man Award and likely will try to bolt Seattle this summer looking for a starting gig. He has posted two solid seasons with the Sonics, is one of the best point-guard defenders in the league and has improved his jump shot. He has become increasingly comfortable as a point guard the past two seasons and should become a solid starter on a team such as the Cavs or Rockets, who are looking for more size and leadership at the position. 17. Kyle Korver, SF, 76ers (R)






Korver





The skinny: Korver has turned himself into one of the NBA's sweetest long-range shooters and should get a lot of attention from teams willing to use their mid-level exception. The Sixers want to keep him and can match any offer up to the mid-level. However, if a team offers more, the Sixers cannot match (they own only Korver's early Larry Bird rights). That's unlikely, though, especially with his poor performance in the playoffs.

18. Earl Watson, PG, Grizzlies



Watson


The skinny: Watson remains one of the most underrated point guards in the league and should generate significant interest this summer. He has played backup to Jason Williams most of his career, but his player efficiency ratings make him, at the very least, Williams' equal. He's one of the best defensive point guards in the league, and he keeps turnovers to a minimum. He won't score a lot of points with that faulty jumper, but he definitely can run a team. Teams such as the Hawks, Bobcats, Bucks, Blazers, Cavs, Jazz, Rockets and Magic all have shown interest. Memphis won't be able to re-sign Watson unless West finds a taker for Jason Williams (who is being shopped hard by the Grizzlies). Given Watson's desire to be a starter, it's unlikely he would choose to re-up with Memphis unless Williams were traded. 19. Sarunas Jasikevicius, PG, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The skinny: Jasikevicius is the best point guard playing in Europe and has led his team to three straight Euroleague Championships. The former Maryland star is an incredible passer, has deep range on his jumper, and plays with lots of emotion and grit. If he were more athletic, a better defender and four or five years younger (he's 29), he'd be near the top of the list. As it stands, he'd be a great mid-level pickup for a team trying to compete for a championship. A number of teams have shown interest, but the rumor is that the Pacers are leading the pack.

20. Donyell Marshall, F, Raptors






Marshall





The skinny: Marshall became one of the most coveted guys on the trading block this past fall and likely will get a lot of interest (for the mid-level exception) from the same teams that pursued him then: the Bulls, Rockets, Heat and Sixers.

21. Udonis Haslem, PF, Heat (R)
The skinny: The Heat are worried that Haslem, a restricted free agent, might get an offer that exceeds the mid-level exception from a team such as the Cavs or Hawks. If he does, Miami won't be able to match. That's why it drafted Wayne Simien on Wednesday night as insurance. While Haslem is coming off a good season, a contract starting at more than $4 million a year would seem excessive. Had he not been playing next to Shaq, his numbers probably would not have been as high.

22. Damon Stoudamire, PG, Blazers
The skinny: He had another up-and-down season for the Blazers, and his run in Portland is likely at an end. Still, Stoudamire would be a great mid-level pickup for a team that needs a solid backup combo guard who can shoot the ball.

23. Gary Payton, PG, Celtics
The skinny: It has become evident that the Celtics are unlikely to bring back Payton next season. He still has some juice in the tank and would be a solid addition on a team that needs some veteran help at the point. Don't be surprised if the Sonics make a run at him should they decide to spend some money this summer and re-sign their free agents. The Wolves and the Heat also are options for Payton.

24. Jerome James, C, Sonics
The skinny: After James played terribly all season, it looked as though his run in the NBA was in jeopardy. However, a solid postseason in which he averaged 12.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg really resurrected his stock. No one will break the bank for James, but a veteran team in desperate need of some size (such as the Knicks, Grizzlies and Suns) might spend up to the mid-level exception and give him another chance.

25. Dan Dickau, PG, Hornets
The skinny:With Chris Paul headed to New Orleans, Dickau has to search for a new home. Dickau was unexpectedly solid for the Hornets this season, averaging 13.3 ppg and 5.2 apg.

[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif]Best of the rest[/font]

Player/Team Option: Darius Songaila, F, Kings (PO); Cuttino Mobley, SG, Kings (PO); Bonzi Wells, SG, Grizzlies (TO); Nick Van Exel PG, Blazers (TO); Devean George, SF, Lakers (PO)


Unrestricted: Latrell Sprewell, SG, Timberwolves; Jeff McInnis, PG, Cavs; Chris Anderson, PF/C, Hornets; Dale Davis, C, Pacers; Kerry Kittles, SG, Clippers; Robert Traylor, PF/C, Cavs; Glenn Robinson, SF, Spurs; Jahidi White, C, Bobcats; Bo Outlaw, F, Grizzlies; Ervin Johnson, C, Timberwolves; Raja Bell, G/F, Jazz; Mark Madsen, F, Timberwolves; Tyronn Lue, PG, Rockets; Darrell Armstrong, PG, Mavericks Clifford Robinson, F, Nets; Greg Buckner, G, Nuggets

Restricted: Gerald Wallace, G/F, Bobcats; Dan Gadzuric, C, Bucks; Zaza Pachulia, C, Bucks; Reggie Evans, F, Sonics; Ronald Murray, G, Sonics; Luke Walton, F, Lakers; Jason Kapono, F, Bobcats; Willie Green, G, Sixers; Matt Bonner, F, Raptors

European Free Agents: Maceo Baston, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv; Arvydas Macijauskas, SG, TAU Vitoria; Anthony Parker, SG/SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv; Travis Hansen, SG/SF, TAU Vitoria; Nikola Vujcic, C, Maccabi Tel Aviv; Jose Manuel Calderon, PG, Tau Vitoria; Dimitris Diamantidis, PG, Panathinaikos; Demos Dikoudis, SF, CSKA Moscow




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PhxGametime

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"The pickings are slim at the point guard position, which should bode well for Jaric. A number of teams – including the Magic, Celtics, Bulls, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Wolves, Suns, Jazz and Raptors – are interested"


I know he'd cost more than Finley but I wouldn't mind Marko Jaric, at both Guard positions...
 

Folster

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I'm going to be realistic with who I would like the Suns to go after.

I see the Suns picking up two or three quality free agents. None will be of the same caliber as SAR or Donyell Marshall.

1. Michael Finley - I definitely think we have a great chance of picking up Finley. Hopefully Steve can convince him.

2. Chris Andersen - If we lose Hunter I would love to see Andersen here to replace him. I think Andersen is better and smarter than Hunter. At least Andersen can catch a pass. Everytime Hunter came in the game he would fumble the first pass he would get. It was so bad and predictable that I would yell at my T.V. pleading for D'antoni to throw him a few warm-up passes before subbing him in.

3. Arvydas Macijauskas - As much as I would like to see a back-up pg, I think the Suns are content with Barbosa and JJ. I have never heard of Arvydas until the Coro article, but his numbers look good.

Line-up:
Nash JJ Marion Thomas Amare

Bench:
Finley JJax Barbosa Andersen/Hunter Arvydas Voskuhl Thompson

That's 12. One more scrub and we have our required 13. We are extremely deep at 2 but are still shallow up front. Maybe Finley and Arvydas is a bit redundant. One should be sacrificed for a big.
 

PhxGametime

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"3. Arvydas Macijauskas - As much as I would like to see a back-up pg, I think the Suns are content with Barbosa and JJ. I have never heard of Arvydas until the Coro article, but his numbers look good."


The only reason, I think he's on list, was to give a list of guys the team is going after and then fans would then be content with adding Michael Finley... :D


I wouldn't mind Marko Jaric for Mid-Level. Although I'd think the team would then Trade Leandro Barbosa maybe along with Jake Voskuhl for who knows what...
 

PhxGametime

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How big is the Bobcats capspace? I've always like Gerald Wallace... I'd have-to check 3PT shooting to see if he could fit here though but I doubt he'd be available.


Swift could be a good option, if he doesn't get a offer above Mid-Level...
 

thegrahamcrackr

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BbaLL_31 said:
How big is the Bobcats capspace? I've always like Gerald Wallace... I'd have-to check 3PT shooting to see if he could fit here though but I doubt he'd be available.


Swift could be a good option, if he doesn't get a offer above Mid-Level...


The Bobcats have like 15-20 million in cap space, but you are right about Wallace. He isn't going anywhere.

I would really like Swift here, and there is a chance that he falls to the mid level for a team.
 

Ouchie-Z-Clown

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nice to see hunter NOT ANYWHERE on that list. i don't think he's gonna get the money he's looking for.
 

coloradosun

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Here's a quote from SAR from the Oregonian.

" I'm really wide open but I would like to go to a good team that has a chance to win and win big. Our goal is to get as much security as possible, but right now, it's not like I have identified any teams or conditions."

It is reported that the Heat and the Spurs are interested. I would hope the Suns head them off at the pass because he has the potential to get both of those teams to the finals or back to the finals, respectively.

Also if the Spurs are interested it would make sense if we want to get to where they are we should adopt some of their strategy.

Also read that the Bulls were very interested in Raja Bell, BC beat them to the spot.
 

Joe Mama

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With Bell I think we can kiss any chances of Shareef Abdur-Rahim or Donyell Marshall coming to the Phoenix Suns. Really this does not break my heart.

I don't see where SAR fits with San Antonio. Is Bowen going to come off the bench. Talk about swapping defense for offense.

Joe Mama
 
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